The sun is shining, most days and the temperatures are slowing warming up. Time to start the process of thinking about what things you want to grow in your garden. Several years ago, right in the center of my backyard, was a garden arch with climbing flowers enveloping it by mid-summer. I thought to myself….how can I make use of this space to a fuller extent? I decided to start growing an herb garden.
Growing an Herb Garden
I decided that my solution was a small, but basic, herb garden. My culinary skills were changing a bit to include some basic herbs, so I thought that this area would be perfect to grow some basics.
My husband had some very old, large pieces of sturdy wood that he had salvaged from an old farmhouse. We didn’t have a specific purpose for them and thought they would make wonderful raised beds around the arch. So, that’s what we did. We made several smaller areas that were perfect for having a small herb garden.
The next question was, which herbs to grow. I wanted herbs that I knew I could use in everyday cooking. If you search your local greenhouse, it seems they do carry a huge assortment. Some I have heard of, others not so much. I decided on ones that were familiar and they ended up being very easy to care for and use. Here’s what I chose that are great for any starter herb garden.
To remember your plans in future years, you may also want to consider mapping out your plan for growing an herb garden in your Gardening Journal.
Parsley: I usually only plant one plant. It grows very big and bushy throughout the season. I cut it back to use for fresh use occasionally, over the summer. Generally, I let it grow throughout the summer and cut it back in the early fall to dry it all. I dry it in my dehydrator and use it all fall and winter in soups and stews. I find that one large, bushy plant is plenty for me to get through a whole year, dried.
Basil: I like to plant a variety of types of basil. I usually buy the assorted pack from Azure Standard. (They carry this in the spring and early summer) It comes in a six-pack with six different varieties. They all have been easy to grow and some, like a purple variety, add color to the herb garden.
Basil plants like to be pruned, as the season is underway. You will get your best growth and bushiness from the plant if you trim it regularly. By the end of the season, especially if you have let it go, it will seed out and not be as nice. Trimmed back regularly, there is plenty to have fresh, for making pesto or seasoning dishes. I also like to dry the extra I cut back for using over the winter in dishes.
Chives: These fragrant and pretty herbs are one that comes back year after year in my raised bed herb garden. I have an onion and garlic variety in my herb area. They grow tall with large purple flowering heads on the end of them unless you cut them back regularly.
Chives are good to have fresh-cut throughout the summer season. They also can be dried at the end of the season. I usually do this when it’s time to cut them all the way back to go into fall.
Rosemary: I have included this in my herb garden. It is a relatively compact plant and easy to grow. I usually only plant one plant, as that has been plenty for our family. Great for using fresh, in chicken recipes. It can also be dried for later, wintertime use.
Cilantro: We are a family that likes cilantro, so I always include a small area for it. I usually plant it from seed but wait until mid to later June to plant it in my garden. Since I also grow tomatoes and peppers, I like to have the cilantro when those are ready to eat, for fresh salsa.
If I start the cilantro too early, it will have all gone to seed by the time the other vegetables are ready. I save space and add this seed in the ground a bit later, for perfect timing.
Lemon Balm and Mint: I also have a couple of areas in my herb garden where I have lemon balm or mint. These need their own area space, as they will grow crazy, coming back year after year, and can eventually take over. It is best to have them in their own space!
I use fresh leaves for tea in the summer. Sometimes I just fill a gallon jar with fresh tap water and add the mint or lemon leaves. It steeps for a fresh minty tea. They can also be dried for winter use.
How to Start an Herb Garden
This list of herbs is very basic. I like to grow what we use, though, so it isn’t too fancy. Herb gardens are easy to tend. With the raised bed herb garden system, there are rarely weeds to contend with. I have found that a small amount of water, each day, is all it takes. They like the soil dampened and then left to dry out again.
If you haven’t tried planting herbs, I encourage you to do so. They are easy to grow and can add huge flavor to your cooking. If you choose to dry them, you will have benefits throughout the year! By following the simple steps laid out in the post above, any beginner can start the perfect herb garden for their family too.
Until next time, Julie
Want to be more prepared for the gardening season? The Gardening and Preserving Journal was designed with the busy, but wants-to-be-organized person in mind! This wonderful spiral bound journal with a glossy laminated cover is the perfect way to keep track of your gardening plans, seeds, food inventory, recipes, and harvest.